The CSS Blog Network

Swapping Land, Changing Priorities?

According to Bulgarian sources, the Serbian government is considering a land swap with Kosovo. In exchange for a territory in northern Kosovo mainly inhabited by Serbs (grey area in map below), they would offer parts of the Presevo valley in southern Serbia, where a majority of the population is Albanian (shaded red area on the right.)

Ethnic map of Kosovo and neighboring regions / © BBC

Yet, Kosovars don’t seem to like the idea. The prime minister of neighboring Albania has also rejected the idea, arguing that it is important to keep political borders in the region as they are.

Trying to carve out ethnically homogeneous polities is indeed problematic, simply because it will never work. Neither the Presovo valley, which would be added to Kosovo, nor the northern parts of Kosovo, which Serbia claims, are inhabited by the respective ethnicity exclusively. There will always remain an ethnic minority, whose rights need to be protected.

There is an interesting aspect to the Serbian “proposal”, though. By suggesting a land swap with Kosovo, does the Serbian government not somehow recognize the country’s sovereignty, which officially is still part of Serbia? The plan adds at least evidence to the argument that Serbia attaches less and less importance to the status of Kosovo. If Serbia will eventually have to choose between the EU and Kosovo, as Igor Jovanovic suggested last week, will it choose the EU?

To me it seems it will. To admit so, however, would be suicide for the current Serbian government.

UK Foreign Policy After Brown

UK Conservative Party leader David Cameron at the 2010 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland / Remy Steinegger, flickr


Their campaign slogan is “Vote for Change.” But in terms of foreign policy, if David Cameron’s Conservative Party maintain their opinion poll lead over Labour and go on to take office after the British general election on 6 May, change is likely to be conspicuous mostly by its absence. As The Economist pointed out last week, with the notable exception of Britain’s relations with the EU, “foreign policy is distinguished by the broad agreement it commands in Westminster […]. For the time being, politics, to a degree that some find heartening and others worryingly complacent, still stops at the water’s edge.”

Take Afghanistan, a war that bleeds popular support with every British fatality (281 now since 2001) but one that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats – the UK’s third largest party (and possible kingmakers if voting ends in a stalemated ‘hung’ parliament)  – offer to end Britain’s military involvement with any time soon. Indeed, and quite apart from any security fallout, a hasty withdrawal would deal a serious blow to the UK’s longstanding ‘special relationship’ with the US, which the Conservatives are (uncontroversially) committed to upholding.

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ISN Weekly Theme: Euro-Mediterranean Relations

Turkey flag

Photo: Vyacheslav Argenberg/flickr

It’s the real-life version of Samunel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations: The Euro-Mediterranean region. The area is home not only to some of the most breathtaking sites in the world, it’s also the meeting place of European and North African/Arab cultures. After years of starts and stops the EU and non-EU members in the region are attempting to join together in a sustainable partnership, but hopes aren’t high.

This week, we’re examining Euro-Mediterranean Relations as our weekly theme.

  • In the latest edition of ISN Podcasts, also part of our Special Report, Dr Bichara Khader says that the issue South-to-North migration in the Mediterranean region is a sticking point due to various factors, including the tendency to group the desire to move from one place to another for a better life with illegal acts.

And as always, you can follow us on Twitter and join our Facebook fan page.

Melting Expectations

Iceberg, Alaska, photo: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton/flickr

Iceberg, Alaska, photo: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton/flickr

With the Copenhagen conference on climate change only two weeks away, it remains doubtful whether a legally binding agreement on climate change will emerge.  Here a run-down of the (mostly vague) pledges made by key greenhouse gas emitters in the wake of the conference:

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British Defense Policy at a Crossroads

CSS Analysis in Security Policy no 64

CSS Analysis in Security Policy no 64

Is British defense policy experiencing an East-of-Suez flashback?

In a new policy brief, CSS researcher Aleksandra Dier looks at whether Britain might have to scale back its global ambitions.

The current situation has been compared to 1968 when, largely as a result of lacking resources, Britain had to adopt a more modest international role.

According to her, the future of the country’s defense role depends on its relation to Europe:

“Strengthening its European commitment could help Britain to align its global ambitions with the resources it needs to project a credible international role.

Pursuing European ways to achieve global ends however remains a domestically disputed strategic option.

You can download the paper here.

Want to know more about British defense policy? Check out our publication holdings on the topic.

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